A family is suing a California county after they buried a loved one only to find out 11 days later that he’s still alive. The family of Frank Kerrigan filed the case accusing Orange County Coroner’s Office of negligence, concealment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims.
The grave mistake happened when a man was found dead behind a Verizon store in Fountain Valley, about 40 miles ( 64 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles. The lawsuit says the Orange County Coroner’s Office contacted the father of Frank Kerrigan who shares the same name as his son’s to inform him about his child’s dead body.
The father asked if he should identify his son’s body but a woman from the coroner’s office wrongly informed him that the identification had been made already through fingerprints. Another family member was also informed by someone from the same office that Kerrigan was found with his identification. Kerrigan’s family buried him in May. 11 days after, he showed up at a friend’s house. The friend informed Kerrigan’s family that he was alive after all.
The man the Kerrigan family buried turned out to be John Dickens. The mistake was presumably made because both Kerrigan and Dickens are homeless and mentally-ill. Dickens’ remains had to be exhumed before he was cremated and sent to his mother in Kansas.
The Kerrigan family also alleges another mistake done by the county as the body found at the Verizon store strangely was neither Kerrigan nor Dickens. The man found at the said store was listed as weighing 250 pounds, whereas Kerrigan weighs only about 160 pounds, almost the same size as the body the family buried.
The lawsuit charges that the coroner’s office “did not want to admit to their identification error and instead released a body that resembled Frank Kerrigan with the belief that no one would care because the deceased were mentally ill and/or homeless.” Kerrigan’s sister, Carole Meikle also says: “There’s no logical explanation rather than a cover-up. It doesn’t add up. The pieces don’t fit.”
Kerrigan’s father was also quick to point out that they’re not just after the money they can win from the damages, but that they need answers. He said what happened was not right for his son nor for other people’s sons and loved ones. County spokeswoman Carrie Braun said she cannot comment on pending litigation and would only say that the sheriff’s department is conducting an internal probe into the matter.